Blog, Politics, Psychology

Stop Asking Trump for Policies He’s Incapable of Formulating

Originally publishes April 16, 2017 on The Huffington Post

Whether it’s Syria, healthcare, taxes, immigration, etc., every time I hear someone ask for a coherent statement of policy from the Trump Administration, I want to scream, “Don’t you realize that mentally disturbed persons are incapable of ‘well-thought-out, clearly formulated policies?’ ” Instead, they are the prisoners of their impulses and the delusional voices in their heads. No wonder why they flit uncontrollably from one stance to another without any sense of coherence or consistency.

So don’t bother me with cries for “rational, well-thought-out policies” when the person supposedly in charge is not in charge of themselves. All we can do is survive somehow the madness that swirls around us daily.

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Blog, Politics, Psychology

News Alert: Psychologists Discover Pathological Pettiness (PP)

Originally published February 10, 2017 on the Huffington Post

Psychologists have discovered a new mental disorder for which there is no known treatment: Pathological Pettiness or PP for short. The condition is manifested by the constant need to respond bitterly to the slightest threats to one’s person. Thus, the numbers of people for and against one are magnified all out of proportion. In short, the person cannot tolerate anything that diminishes his or her sense of self-worth.

The condition is difficult to diagnose and treat because it similar to other well-known disturbances such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The primary difference is that controlled lab experiments reveal that those suffering from PP are able to detect the most minute slights to their person that those suffering from other disorders are able to ignore.

Quarantines have been proposed until one can get a better handle on treating the disease. If unchecked, the fear is that PP will spread uncontrollably and thus infect sizable numbers of the population. If this were to happen, an accompanying disorder would take hold, Alternative Fact Syndrome, the need to make up whatever suits one’s sense of realty. There is also no known treatment for this highly disturbing and infectious disease as well.

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Blog, Politics, Psychology

Where are all the adults?

Originally Published 12/14/16 on Nation of Change

The election of someone so unfit as Trump to be President not only opens up, but relives old traumas. No wonder why Trump arouses such intense feelings.

An important concept from General Psychology, the Parentified Child, is key to understanding why so many are suffering from feelings that everything is completely falling apart. In a word, many are not only overwhelmed by, but alternate between intense feelings of anger, hopelessness, and despair.

Parentified Children are children who early in life had to assume the role of a parent because their actual parents were unable to function as adults. Whether the parents suffered from debilitating mental illness, serious alcohol or drug addiction, were generally incompetent, or were unavailable emotionally, the basic roles between parents and children were fundamentally reversed.

Because the parents weren’t dependable, or fully present, the children had no alternative but to step in and keep things running as best they could. Thus, the children often prepared meals, dressed younger kids for school, etc. But as a result, the children had no childhoods themselves. This not only produced major bouts of depression later in life (normal disappointments and setbacks were magnified), but lifelong feelings of intense anger towards the parents, and adults in general.

I know all of this for a fact for I was a Parentified Child. My mother suffered from a chronic, debilitating form of depression and my father drove a cab at nights to get away from a sick wife and two young kids. My brother and I were thereby essentially left on our own to care for our mother and ourselves as best we could, which was difficult since there was barely enough money for food and rent for the run-down flats in which we lived.

However, I was blessed with brains. Since I didn’t want to live like my parents, and I did extremely well in school, I embraced education with a fierce passion. It was my ticket out of poverty. I not only ended up getting a PhD, but became a professor and a student for life. In short, those who have the character to survive bad, if not lost, childhoods have also developed the fortitude and will that are necessary for success later in life.

As a result of both my background and education, I understand perfectly what many are feeling, namely where are all the adults who are supposed to help take care of us? Just when the office of the Presidency calls for the most mature, healthy-minded, and highly functioning adult, we’ve elected someone who at best is nothing more than a highly disturbed child, and clearly, an out-and-out demagogue. This not only angers me greatly, but absolutely scares me to hell. My worst nightmare has come to life. Once again the children are put in the position of acting as grownups.

The election of someone so unfit as Trump to be President not only opens up, but relives old traumas. No wonder why Trump arouses such intense feelings.

If in addition, we add what’s going on in the world around us, then truly a dark cloud of bitter hopelessness has descended upon us: Civility has all but vanished. We’re assaulted daily by rudeness everywhere we turn. Dangerous driving has reached epidemic proportions. Madmen are in control of crazy so-called nation states. We live under a perpetual cloud of terrorism. Before and after Trump’s election, there’s been a dangerous surge in hate crimes. The one-percent continue to enrich themselves at the literal expense of everyone else. Callous unfeeling madmen do indeed run the world. They have to be carefully monitored and checked assiduously every day.

If there is a saving grace, and I believe there is, Parentified Children also live with an abiding sense of hope that things will ultimately get better, that somewhere, somehow, adults will eventually come to the rescue. I have never given up the hope that things will get better. After all, they did for me.

But for real hope to exist, we first have to recognize and accept that we are going through what Parentified Children suffered early in life.

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Blog, Politics, Psychology

The Parentized Child Presidency

Originally published 12/09/16 on Nation of Change

Those of us who didn’t vote for Trump–the cast-off, disadvantaged children–will have to monitor Trump very closely.

A central concept from Psychoanalysis, the Parentized Child, is key to understanding why Donald Trump was elected in the first place, and secondly, what must be done to preserve the nation from the damage he will surely wreck.

Parentized Children are children who early in life had to assume the role of a parent because their actual parents were not up to the task of acting as adults. Whether the parents suffered from debilitating mental illness, serious alcohol or drug addiction, or were generally incompetent, the basic roles between parents and children were fundamentally reversed. Because the parents weren’t dependable, the children had no alternative but to step in and keep things running as best they could. Thus, the children prepared meals, dressed younger kids for school, etc. But as a result, the children had no childhood. This not only produced major bouts of depression later in life, but lifelong anger.

Of course, I don’t know what Trump’s childhood was actually like, but it’s clear that we’ve put someone who is not fully developed—a highly disturbed child—into a role that calls for an extremely competent, healthy adult. I suspect that a major factor for this is the fact that Hillary was viewed as extremely flawed parent who couldn’t be trusted. Therefore, a seriously undeveloped child was viewed, at least by those who voted for him, as the only sensible alternative. In effect, were those who voted for Trump acting as Parentized Children in expressing their intense hatred of Hillary? Was “Lock Her Up!” really a barely disguised call to “Lock Up the Bad Parent?”

Here’s precisely where another fundamental role reversal is called for. Those of us who didn’t vote for Trump–the cast-off, disadvantaged children–will have to monitor Trump very closely because a child acting in the role that calls for a healthy, well-developed adult cannot be trusted for one nanosecond to head the biggest “family” in the world. In short, are we cast into the role of Parentized Children?

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Blog, Politics, Psychology

The Unraveling Of The American Mind

Originally published August 2nd, 2016 in the Huffington Post

Donald Trump is the quintessential illustration of the phenomenon known as Splitting that the highly influential child psychoanalyst Melanie Klein identified early in the 20th century. Indeed, he is the poster child for Splitting!

Even though I have written about Klein before in The Huffington Post, her ideas bear repeating since they are indispensable in understanding our current predicament.

By means of play therapy, which she literally invented, Klein was able to get at the earliest, preverbal, unconscious fantasies of children during the first two to three years of their lives. Since young children couldn’t talk cogently about their innermost feelings and emotions, Klein was able to see what was going on by observing how children treated dolls that represented the prime characters in their lives. Thus, if the mommy and daddy dolls were constantly angry and fighting with one another and the child doll, then Klein was able to understand the emotional conflicts the child was struggling to deal with. For this reason, it is said that if Freud discovered the child in the adult, then Klein discovered the infant in the child. Klein thus pushed back even further our understanding of the roots of human behavior.

One of Klein’s earliest discoveries was that the fantasies of very young children revealed that there is an extremely powerful and destructive side to humans during the first years of their lives. The fantasies were basically due to the fact that very young children experienced extreme anger and frustration over the fact that they didn’t have complete control over the primary caretaker who was responsible for feeding them both physically and emotionally. When Klein wrote early in the 20th century, this was primarily the mother.

Klein established that under the age of three, children split the image of the mother into a “good mother” who cared and administered to the child’s every need exactly when the child wanted it and a “ bad mother” who had to discipline the child and couldn’t be there exactly on the child’s schedule. Because the child’s mind was not yet mature enough, it couldn’t comprehend, let alone reconcile, that the “good” and the “bad mother” were one and the same. In other words, to the young child, there were two separate mothers.

This helps to explain why fairytales are so appealing to young children. The “good witch” and “bad witch” help young children cope psychologically with the issues they are struggling to comprehend. Namely, how can young children reconcile that the good and the bad mother are one and the same? Thus, fairytales allow children to “act out” safely the emotional conflicts they are experiencing. That’s why the “bad witch” is always killed—indeed, has to die—and the “good witch” eventually triumphs.

(Notice carefully that when Splitting is not understood for what it is, then the fairytales of young children easily morph into destructive national myths, stories, and fantasies about “dangerous foreigners” who are out to “rape and murder us.”)

One of the critical functions of the parents is to provide a “healthy container” to help the young child literally “contain” the raging emotions that pulse through them uncontrollably. If the parents do not either over or under react to the child’s emotions, verbal outbursts, and fantasies, then the child eventually learns to contain his or her emotions and hence heal the split images between the “good” and the “bad” parents. The child eventually comes to accept emotionally that the “good” and the “bad” aspects of the parents are located in the same person. He or she also eventually comes to accept that there are good and bad sides to everyone, especially themselves. Nonetheless, even under the best of circumstances, Splitting lasts for a lifetime.

Klein termed the earliest stage of human development “the paranoid-schizoid position.” It was “paranoid” because the young child feared that the parent would either hurt or abandon him or her; “schizoid” because of the phenomenon of Splitting.

Most children naturally develop out of this earlier stage, but some form of Splitting stays with us our entire lives. Indeed, in times of extreme stress or threat, we shouldn’t be surprised at all to find people regressing or reverting back to the paranoid-schizoid position.

With Trump’s constant denigration of blacks, Hispanics, women, Muslims, etc., Splitting is constantly on display. In short, it’s a major component of Trump’s character and persona.

One of the worst consequences of Splitting is that those who are under its grip promote and engage in actions that actually further their dangerous views of the world. They become self-fulfilling.

They actually believe that there are “good” versus “bad guys” and that the differences between them are real and clear-cut. Further, since the bad guys are extremely dangerous, if not evil through and through, they must be controlled by any means, if not eliminated altogether. The supreme irony is that through their beliefs and actions, they are responsible for the creation of “bad guys.” But then, one’s inner fears are often projected outwards. For how can the “bad guys” be part of oneself?

In casting Trump as a premier example of Splitting, I am of course engaging in the very phenomenon as well. He is The Supreme Bad Guy!

No one is ever entirely free of Splitting. The only difference is between those who are aware of it and those who are not, but then there I go again!

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Blog, Media + Politics, Psychology, Technology

The New Media: In Your Head and in Your Body All the Time

Originally published May 16th, 2016 on the Huffington Post

The early days of commercial TV are aptly characterized as “appointment media.” One had to make specific “appointments” as it were to watch one’s favorite shows since they were broadcast only at precise times and rarely repeated. With the advent of cable TV, we moved to “destination media.” Certain channels offered 24 hours of programming that was targeted at specific groups such as kids, gardening enthusiasts, news junkies, etc. Today, we have “always on media.”

A personal experience, but one which is all too common, illustrates the nature of “always on media.” More than once, our out-of-state niece has stayed with us. She literally sleeps with her cell-phone next to ear, which of course is “always on” lest she fail to be instantly “in touch” with all her friends. Anything less is cause for great shame and humiliation.

In a word, we’ve moved from fixed TV screens to small portable ones that are integral parts of our every waking moments, and unfortunately for teenagers everywhere, when they should be asleep.

The psychological and social effects are enormous. Parents report great difficulties in getting their children to turn off their cell-phones, iPads, etc., and to engage in meaningful conversations at the family table, assuming of course that families still have regular mealtimes at which they eat together. When families do get together, parents report that heated arguments often break out over getting kids to turn off their “screens.” But more than this, occupational therapists report that today’s children do not have the necessary core strength to sit and walk properly because too much time is spent slouching in chairs glued to their “screens.”

Yes, we know that there have always been complaints over new technologies that have both improved and disrupted our lives. Thus, when air-conditioning came into widespread use, it was feared that it would destroy a sense of community because people would no longer congregate on their steps on hot nights. Instead of talking with one another, and thus getting to know their neighbors, they would retreat to their homes where they would be isolated. Of course such fears were overblown.

Nonetheless, we feel that something is very different about today’s media and technologies. Today’s technologies are not only disrupting old established businesses (think Uber and Airbnb), but they are disrupting our lives even more. In part, this is because those who develop such technologies have little if any training, and hence even less interest, in human, and especially, child development. Instead, what happens is that the latest, great technologies are largely dumped on society, and more often than not on the most fragile and vulnerable members, without any forethought given to their potential deleterious social effects.

Take Facebook. If one had deliberately set out to intentionally design a perfect mechanism to bully young children relentlessly 24/7, one couldn’t have designed a better platform coupled to cell phones! Ideally, parents, child psychologists, and even kids themselves should have been involved before the launch of Facebook to talk about possible ways to curb cyber-bullying.

While not perfect by any means, enough is known about the history of technology such that there are no valid excuses for not having historians, psychologists, and sociologists involved from the very beginning in the development of new technologies. In the case of cell-phones, the genie is already out of the bottle. It will take a concerted effort by parents to band together politically to push for greater controls.

If you think that cell-phones have bad effects, stay tuned. Even more worrisome are technologies on the horizon. We already have clothes and gloves that are full of sensors that “meld” seamlessly onto one’s body, “sense, “and relay all kinds of data to interested parties for their personal gain. The day is not far off that we will have implants such that we won’t need external cell-phones. They’ll be integral parts of us by literally being in us.

If there are any doubts whatsoever about whether such concerns are overblown, then consider that recently Carnegie Mellon announced that engineers have developed new technologies whereby a person’s skin essentially becomes a “touch screen.” Talk about “being always on and literally ‘in’ one’s body!”

Who’s thinking about the effects, both positive and negative, of such “developments,” if we can truly call them that? If we don’t start thinking about them now, it’ll be too late.

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